When you hear the name Toy Ann McCray Hawthorne, you think of one word and one word only, Kindness. Her kindness has uplifted and saved countless lives for several years, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The windy city is going through some trying times, but she and her organizations have brought much-needed tenderness and vulnerability to the city of Chicago. Yes, we have great schools, finger-licking restaurants, amazing museums, a plethora of activities, stunning waterfront views, and a dynamic downtown, people who have never visited or who have never lived here think Chicago is crime-ridden; we’re called, Chi-raq. With Toy and her organization, P.O.E.T. people can see a different side of the windy city—a more positive vibe.
Community activist Toy Ann has been recognized from the White House to UPS for her unwavering passion to help her fellow man. She and her P.O.E.T. organization, volunteer every year at the Special Olympics in Chicago. Every chance she gets, Toy serves those in need in any way she can; whether it’s providing them with meals, or supplying them with the essentials to survive harsh Chicago winters, the homeless, the less fortunate, and the lost can count on Toy to remind them in the most loving way possible—you matter. I had the pleasure to sit down and interview Toy Ann to learn more about the woman that has taken Chicago by storm with kindness.
Obsession: You have a tremendous passion for helping others, where did it all begin for you?
Toy Ann: It started at home, with my mother who is one of the sweetest God-fearing people I know. She has been helping others for as long as I can remember. In church, on our block, at her job, my brother’s friends, she would say if there was a need, fill it. My mother gave out clothes, food, rides back and forth to church, loaned out our encyclopedias, shared knowledge about God, resources, etc.
My mom gave and helped others without thought. Watching her taught me indirectly and directly, how to help people in need. She constantly reminded me how blessed we were, how I should be a giver and not a taker, and when you give from the heart, your reward comes from the father (God).
Obsession: You’ve won numerous awards for being a champion of the people. In your opinion, what is your greatest accomplishment?
Toy Ann: Watching those whom God sent me to help and mentor, overcome suicide and depression, etc. help and mentor others by sharing their testimonies.
Obsession: For the last decade, violence has been the face of Chicago. If there were one thing you would like people who aren’t from here to know about our city, what would it be?
Toy Ann: What you’re seeing in my city is taking place in every other city; Chicago is just on a larger scale geographically. What you’re seeing today is a culmination of many things, one of those things being the plan to break up the black family and destroy the black man with section 8 housing and government assistance. Infesting our neighborhoods with drugs and guns, lack of resources, inadequate education, lack of opportunities, these things tend to create an environment of hopelessness, self-hate, and genocide.
READ FULL INTERVIEW IN THE NOVEMBER ISSUE OF INTELLECTUAL INK MAGAZINE